Pierre-Laurent Aimard | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Pierre-Laurent Aimard

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Born in 1957 in Lyon, France, pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard won four first prizes while studying at the Paris Conservatory and at 15 won the Olivier Messiaen International Competition. Four years later Pierre Boulez invited him to be a founding member of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, with which he played for 18 years. In the past decade he's become one of the world's leading performers of 20th-century and contemporary piano music, particularly that of Messiaen and Ligeti. In 2002 he gave a stunning performance of Messiaen's mystical Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant Jesus at Orchestra Hall (and later on CD), and his imagination, tonal control, and ability to turn notes into poetry seemed limitless. This year he's put out another remarkable disc, with a superb rendition of Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, one of the major works on this program. His touch is miraculous in the first movement--shimmering pianissimi that pull the listener into Ravel's sumptuous world of moonlit water, undulating crescendos that are breathtaking--and he captures the varying moods and spectacular sound effects of the other two movements with an easy virtuosity. He'll also play five Debussy preludes from Book I and Schumann's Carnaval, a monumental early work made up of short pieces representing friends such as Chopin, Paganini, and his beloved Clara as well as literary figures and his own personae. The recital will conclude with a 1976 work by Hungarian composer Gyorgy Kurtag, Games, comprised of short, sometimes fragmentary sections with a wide range of styles and moods. This is a rare opportunity to hear a phenomenally gifted artist playing some great music. Sun 11/6, 3 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $16-$37.

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